Expert Report

Internationalization of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Goals, Strategies, and Challenges (2009)

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Driven by growing energy demands, high prices for fossil fuels, and concern about climate change, more than two dozen nations, including Egypt, Vietnam, Belarus, the Gulf States, and Turkey, among others, have announced that they are considering or planning their first nuclear power plants. The fuel for these plants is fabricated from enriched uranium, which can be purchased from outside suppliers -- currently, two international consortia, Russia, and the U.S. However, some countries may fear that relying on others could make them vulnerable to a cutoff of supplies for political reasons. This report, which was produced with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, draws upon discussions from an international workshop convened by the National Academies, involving 10 countries that might participate in a system to assure reliable supplies of fuel. The report concludes that the United States and Russia, along with other countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), shoud redouble efforts to explore a broad menu of approaches to provide assurances against political disruptions of the nuclear fuel supply. The report recommends that nations work together to create a global system of a small number of international centers to handle sensitive steps of the fuel cycle, such as enrichment and management of spent fuel, and possibly also reprocessing, storage, and disposal.